By: Mizuno Race Team Member, Serena Burla
If you have been a runner for long enough you’ve probably faced times in your running career where your running or attitude towards running has been knocked off track. You might call it a rough patch, rut, funk, blah period, or having a tough time getting out the door stint; although I’m sure it goes by many other names. The good news is these periods don’t have to last forever and you can equip yourself with tools to help you get back on track when they arise!
Unless you are superhuman (and if you are can I please meet you and what other cool super powers do you have?) you are going to face some ebb and flow throughout your training cycles and career as a runner. You do, however, have a choice when “struggling” with your running. You can A) feel sorry for yourself and mope, stop running, give in, drown your running sorrows in donuts and derail, or B) realize the only way out is through mindset and forge on looking for joy in your running. I recommend choice B.
If you find yourself with a little bit of your teenage rebellion attitude lingering towards running be patient and remember you might not have 100 percent control over the physical state of your body but if you try really hard you can control the mental side. *Note to self: file this away and apply during my next rough patch.*
Alter your attitude. Take an honest look at what you are struggling with and identify several ways to refocus.
Find ways to press the running refresh button. Do you need to vary your route? I recommend going to a state or county park with trails because the beauty of nature is always good for the soul. It could be as simple as running the loop you normally do backwards for a fresh perspective.
Consider meeting someone to run. I have noticed that when I meet up with a good friend, or a group, my mind is taken to different places and my attitude improves. If you have an easy day, call someone who typically runs a little slower than you to encourage them on their run. Meet up with someone faster and challenge yourself to stay with them for a set amount of time.
Inspire at any speed. See if you can volunteer to run with a local schools track, cross country team, or running club, they have athletes of all abilities. Making your running about something more than yourself could be just what the doctor ordered. The past month I have been pen pals with an elementary school running club through the Kids of STEEL program in association with the Pittsburgh marathon. Sharing my deep love of running with them and getting their fresh perspective, energy, and simple joy for running has been incredibly positive for me.
Take a look at your training plan. You might also want to look at your training plan and what is going on in your life. We don’t live in a bubble and yet again forget we are human; sleep, nutrition and stress can deeply impact our running. Are you tired? Do you need a recovery week? Do you need to get more sleep? Eliminate some outside life stressors? Do you need to take a day off or cross train? Do you need to freshen up your runs?
Don’t let your pace or mileage dictate the quality of your run. If you sense this happening, ditch the tracking device and run for time and your own perceived effort. Or don’t wear a watch at all! This could be the freedom you were looking for. Choose days to listen to your body and don’t gauge your run by how fast, slow, or how far you made it.
Run with family. Sometimes you just need some extra support from loved ones. This summer I had a rough string of days and decided to invite my son to bike with me while I ran. It was just the spark I needed to get my butt back in gear.
Remember : You are not alone! We all experience these feelings every now and then. Without these lulls in running, however, you wouldn’t appreciate those really great days to the full extent. So rejoice, rejoice, in all things rejoice and give thanks. Get yourself back up on those tracks, forge ahead, and find the light at the end of the tunnel.
Serena Burla is a marathoner, mother and cancer survivor. She has numerous top three finishes in US Championships, including 1st place at the 2014 US 1/2 Marathon Championships, and international marathons, 2nd at the 2103 Amsterdam Marathon. Most recently, Serena finished an impressive 8th place at the USA Olympic Marathon Trials.